Reigning World Champion masters a wet race and returns to the top of the standings after Alvaro Bautista fell heavily.
A wet Race 1 proved to be dramatic in the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as Donington Park hosted yet another thrilling encounter. A frantic start saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) take the lead early on and never look back as he romped to a 76th career win to take the championship lead, as Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) crashed out in dramatic fashion.
It was a blistering opening lap from Jonathan Rea, who leaped of the line and took the lead at Turn 1, opening up a lead of over a second on the first lap. Pole-sitter Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) held second place, ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha of Loris Baz in fourth. Alvaro Bautista was fifth in the early stages but losing time to Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team).
As the race settled, Rea was setting a scorching pace, lapping two seconds a lap quicker than anybody else, whilst behind him, Loris Baz got his way into the podium positions and ahead of Leon Haslam at the Melbourne Loop on Lap 2. One of the bigger losers off the start was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), who was down in ninth. It was a bright start for Argentine rider, Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), who was up to eighth from 14th, one place behind replacement rider, Peter Hickman (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
On Lap 4, Bautista began to respond to Lowes, as the Spaniard pulled clear and steadied the tide. Further down the order, Alessandro Delbianco (Mie Althea Racing Team) was showing his wet weather skills once again, as he was coming through the order. However, two laps later, it was a colossal moment for the Italian at Turn 2, with both legs off one side of his Honda, taking to the soaking wet grass at high-speed, yet somehow remaining upright.
Back at the front, Jonathan Rea continued to pull away from the rest, although Tom Sykes was beginning to match his former teammate’s lap times. After eight laps, Rea had a seven second lead, setting a supreme pace but needing to remain focussed, as the rain became heavier and more water was laying on the track. Whilst Sykes was second, Haslam was back in third and ahead of Loris Baz.
Then, a succession of accidents as Jordi Torres crashed on wet grass on the exit of Turn 6, whilst Sandro Cortese crashed at the same corner on the same lap, with the entry of the corner being the only difference. However, then there was huge drama, as Alvaro Bautista crashed out in spectacular style at the same point of the track, suffering his first back-to-back crashes of the season. The championship pendulum had now swung to Jonathan Rea, but with more than ten laps left, he still had to remain upright.
As riders ahead fell, other riders took advantage, with Leandro Mercado now elevated into sixth place, Hickman seventh and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in eighth. Behind them, Alessandro Delbianco was on the move, up inside the top ten and wanting more, as he chased after those ahead of him.
Jonathan Rea took a third career victory at Donington Park, his 76th in total. Tom Sykes was back on the podium for a second round running and on a third manufacturer at Donington Park, whilst Leon Haslam was third at his home venue. Once again proving his worth in the wet weather, Loris Baz was fourth, ahead of Alex Lowes, who had a relatively quiet race.
A stunning ride for ‘Tati’ Mercado saw him take his joint-best result of his career and his best result of the 2019 season. Peter Hickman took a career-best seventh as a replacement rider, whilst behind him was Michael van der Mark, Alessandro Delbianco and Chaz Davies – the Italian getting the Welshman on the penultimate lap. It was a best result of the season for Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team), who took 11th.
The championship lead now changes for the first time in 2019, with Jonathan Rea leading Alvaro Bautista by nine points, with the Northern Irishman being 61 points behind at one point. This remarkable comeback promises to give thrilling battles on Sunday at Donington Park.
P1 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“It’s mad to be in this position after the way the championship has been gone. I am so happy for my team because they never gave up! In this condition, it is so easy to make a mistake, so I had to stay 100% concentrated every single lap. It was the longest race of my life because I had a big gap, but that made me a lot nervous. I was riding quite tight, but in the last I just said, ok I do my rhythm and let’s see. I had a few moments out there, but I want to thank all my team because they gave me a great bike today. We take this one and think about tomorrow. It seems that it should be dry!”.
P2 – Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team)
“During the race, I had the feeling that I was riding with a few limitations, but I am happy to bring home the second position. I still feel like it is quite incredible where we are so early in the program. I am pleased to have now to consecutive podiums. I should have had more, but I feel that if we can keep this momentum, it would be nice for all the guys in the garage and surely it would be nice to see them again hanging on the pit wall”,
P3 – Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“I made a good start, and initially I felt like I could try and push with Johnny because we had the same race pace in the wet weather, but very quickly I found out that I was struggling a lot especially with the rear grip. I had a little battle with Tom, and then with Loris and after this, I found myself with a six seconds gap with the guys in front and behind and I was managing in the end. It was not an enjoyable race but to finish on the podium was enjoyable for me especially in my home race, so we’ve made consecutive podiums now, that is the third in a row, so now I move on to tomorrow, and try to repeat it”.
#GBRWorldSBK at Donington Park: Race 1
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
2. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +11.348
3. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +11.723
Championship Standings after Race 1, Round 8
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (339 points)
2. Alvaro Bautista (ESP) Ducati (330 points)
3. Michael van der Mark (NED) Yamaha (196 points)